Tags: chinese tours

meiren

The Tourist Trap

The college of overseas students took us to an ancient village called Huanglong Village on the outskirts of Chengdu.

It was nice for the most part, though almost everywhere you looked someone was selling something. I looked around a bit and actually discovered they had a shop in one of the larger stalls that sold washers and refrigerators. Yeah, certainly the first thing I think of when I hear the phrase "ancient village" would be modern electrical home appliances.

The town did actually have some history to it, though. It was at the latest from the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD... not to be confused with the dynasty under which China was first unified - the Qin, 221 - 206 BC), and it had for centuries been repeatedly destroyed somehow and then restored. In most places, the wood is the geniune article, with some examples about three centuries old including some beautifully carved window covers.










In fact, the town is still in use. Many of the shop vendors seem to live within the village. I took a quick peek or two into some open doorways out of curiosity (don't call me nosy when you know you would have done the same!!!) and saw people's living rooms with conveniences such as tvs, so people were definitely living there. There was also an elementary school at one edge of the town, and as we passed by a silk-making workshop we came to the gates of - what else? - a temple.










This particular temple had various signs pointing out the ages of the trees, especially one fairly wide tree that was used as part of the architecture of a smaller temple. I enjoy looking at textures and details, so looking at the form and roughness of the old trees was more interesting to me, though of course I couldn't help but think of the older and more impressive trees in a couple of my favorite places in the US...

We were led through the temple grounds to where the judgment hall, prison, and execution block were. Of course the old town's judgment court wasn't been used, but they've left certain elements alone for the tourists to understand what it might have been like.

The prison was somewhat dissected for tourists so that we could see inside (possibly without feeling claustrophobic). It looked as if prisoners might have been chained directly to the wall. The cells probably had been very dark and very damp; in summer they might have been tolerable, but there was no way the prisoners would've escaped the damp cold of winter, if they had been kept in there for very long.

We did go up and view the judgment seat, which apparently was the real McCoy, but once you turned around it was obvious where the executions were held by the obvious sight of the chopping block. Well, I don't know what the term is for it, but it reminds me of a regular cutting board.

When that highlight of our day was over, some of us wandered through the part of the village that was along the river.





A downstream view of the river from the bridge.





View of the bed from the side.





Riverboats!



And then came one of the wierdest services available to tourists in China, or in Chengdu at least...


Ear cleaning:




The star of this video is one of my schoolmates, by the way.



Some other vistas of the village you might like:







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    All I Need - Enter the Worship Circle
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meiren

JZG: The Big Snow

Well, the snow wasn’t very “big” at Huanglong, but it was wonderful.

When I woke up the final time (I woke up at least three times, not due to the cold this time but due to our roommate’s snoring. I actually considered risking some sort of international fiasco just to throw something at her to make her roll over and stop snoring. No, I didn’t actually throw anything. Don’t worry; I was very well-behaved on this trip) I knew it was going to be cold. From what I heard, I expected really frigid conditions, so I basically wore all the clothes I brought with me. I didn’t want to bother with the breakfast they provided, so I drank some instant coffee that I had brought with me and hauled bum to the bus.

Deborah informed me once I had boarded that our fellow passengers were not very pleased with our tour guide because they thought he cheated them. The scenario’s like this: the Tibetans eat yak. Han Chinese want to be “educated” in things Tibetan; Chinese want to try yak meat. Tibetans and tour guides sense a way to make big bucks. Tour guide offers big meat at big bucks. Chinese pay tour guide big bucks. Chinese expect big meat, but waitress implies otherwise when it arrives: “Here’s your la – oops, your yak meat.”

In case you missed it, the waitress gave the customers reason to doubt they got what they paid for. So, it seems, they had gotten LAMB meat instead of yak.

I’m surprised they didn’t beat up the tour guide.

The bus ride was only a few hours, and one of the first things I noticed as we were getting higher in altitude was that it was snowing, which made me excited as I really love snow.

The time we got off the bus was during the snow’s intermission. We were met with a dilemma: we were given only two or three hours to walk around the park. This seemed unfair to me at the time, but after hearing other people’s experiences with Chinese tours, today’s two or three hours of wandering was generous, and yesterday’s six hours or so of looking around was flat out miraculous; some friends who went on a Chinese tour of the Three Gorges along the Yangzi River had only ten minutes to have a look at the different scenic stops, and that was actually after haggling for time:

Tour Guide: Okay, we’re here. You have only five minutes before you need to get back on the bus.

Laura, etc: Only FIVE minutes? You’re kidding!

Tour Guide: (impatient sigh) Fine! Ten minutes! But ONLY ten minutes!

So, you see, we apparently had a fairly generous tour guide, which was a good thing considering he might’ve cheated almost everyone with the whole yak meat incident.

Two hours though are just not enough to walk up the entire length of Huanglong.







Huanglong, by the way, is in a mountain valley. The translation of it is “Yellow Dragon,” referring to the shape and color of the ancient mineral deposits as it “flows” down the valley, which is actually still going on. There were signs everywhere saying in Chingrish the equivalent of: “Please don’t step off the path or touch the scenery – it will take about a century for the damage you’ve done to be naturally repaired.”

To actually see the Huanglong valley, you have to walk up a mountain, which can take about two hours, or so I’ve heard. Since we were a little short on time, we decided to take the easy way up – via gondola – which took twenty minutes or so.

Even after going to Jiuzhaigou, Huanglong seemed absolutely surreal. And the snow made everything seem beyond terrestrial as all you could see in the sky were snow clouds and… snow.







I cannot think of anything to compare to the pool formations of Huanglong to give you an idea of what it’s like standing there looking at it or walking through it. Definitely, I can say that these pools were many beautiful colors. Most of them were fairly small, perhaps the size of a Jacuzzi.







It was very strange seeing vegetation growing in these pools. Again, this seemed just beautifully surreal, and I cannot seem to come up with an apt description of what this park was like.







I am very glad I'm in Sichuan.



meiren

JZG: The Big Day

After ten hours or so on the bus, they decided we ought to leave for breakfast the next morning at about 6AM after waking up at 5:30.

Whatever.

I didn’t sleep very well anyway. I woke up at least three times last night, and each time I was freezing because my hair hadn’t dried thoroughly and I had been sleeping next to a window. No heater, either. From the feel of things, I knew I had to wear layers for the day, not to mention make sure to keep moving to generate some warmth.

Unfortunately, I had to wear pretty much everything I brought with me, and we still had two days left of passing slowpokes on boardwalks, avoiding getting poked in the eye by umbrellas used by women who want to be as “white” as possible to shield themselves from the sun (more about that in a later entry), and touring around in a stuffy bus.

Before we resumed our tour, we went to breakfast. A fan of toast and jam or simple cereal and fruit for breakfast, it was difficult to come up with enough appetite for spicy tofu and white rice porridge. I had a little bit of the porridge, but I knew that if I continued to eat when I didn’t have the appetite, I’d end up feeling sick later, so I stopped after a very small amount. Don’t worry; I brought some of my own food.

We hopped onto the bus and left for Jiuzhaigou National Park.

Thought I was there already, did you? =P

Nope. The “Igloo Inn” was two hours away from JNP.

As the bus rolled through the town, I looked at all the shops and carts lining the streets loaded with goodies meant for tourists; tourist towns, by the way, don’t only exist in the US. I would not recommend buying much from either variety, as some objects, such as the shawls, appeared to be mass-produced and there were duplicates of each shawl everywhere. I’ve even seen the exact designs and colors in Chengdu.

It amazed me though when I looked at Tibetan art and jewelry at how close it resembles art and jewelry of the American Indians of the plains and southwest. A common theme is silver and turquoise in their jewelry, which I could have easily mistaken for American Indian designs, and like the jingle dresses of some American Indian tribes, the women’s dresses had silver decorations that clinked as they moved.

A variety of familiar decorations hung from the walls of some shops. There were the painted skulls of yaks, which reminded me a lot of buffalo and cattle skull wall-decorations. They even had round painted shields of leather. Paintings on canvas were also hanging on the walls, and the style and representations of those reminded me of those of southwest tribes.

There were also other symbols in common, usually painted on homes, such as the backwards swastika (I don’t remember the term for a backwards swastika, but it represents peace, harmony, and order; the swastika represents chaos and anarchy), which was also a Navajo (a southwestern tribe) symbol, I believe.

Generally, the Tibetans look different from the Han Chinese. First of all, they’re taller – I’ve seen Tibetan men over six feet tall while I’ve been able to look many Han Chinese men square in the eyes. Their faces seem more angular with prominent cheekbones, and many of them have a nice blush to their cheeks that just doesn’t seem to happen for the Hans. Their eyes also seem narrower.

To bottom-line it and give you an idea of what they’re like, based on the dancing, their dress, their singing, their customs, their designs, and to a certain extent their bone structure, I’d say that culturally, the Tibetans are kind of in between Russians and American Indians. True, someone might have gotten the idea for some of the familiar Wild West-looking merchandise when visiting the States, but other things seemed too well-established to have been an idea that originated elsewhere.

And like visiting Yosemite or Agate Beach, I was going to visit the ancestral homeland of these local people.

When we got off the bus, we had to walk to the entrance of the park because the government only allowed vehicles that run on electricity to enter the park so that the area would not become so polluted. I certainly give the government kudos for that, and, considering the trouble Yosemite has had in the past, and perhaps other American national parks, I think the US government should do something similar – or at least just allow 2003 Honda Civics into the parks…

As we walked up to the visitors’ center, someone was singing a Tibetan song over a sound system. No instruments, just clear, lovely singing. It really matched the mood of the park, which was quiet and calm.

Until they started the tape and the guy launched into a karaoke song!!! Deborah groaned and remarked on how the mood of the area had been ruined by the karaoke music, which I absolutely agreed with.

It was rather crowded because everyone else had the same idea of how to spend their national holiday as we did. The weather was pretty nice, and the air was definitely very fresh, since the government is really clamping down on pollutants in the area, even tobacco smoke; there’s a pretty hefty fine for smoking in the area: 500 RMB / 63 USD.

That might not seem like that much of a fine compared to some fines in America, but first of all, the Chinese in general don’t earn very much money, and second, that’s still a pretty expensive cigarette.

The park didn’t have railings along most of the boardwalks / trails, so I was sure to be careful carrying my unbalanced backpack while walking around the slower people, trying to avoid any sort of incident which would cause me to fall into what was sure to be very cold water and accidentally defacing an “international” monument or ruining an alleged 10 million year old ecosystem.

Though many scientists come to the area to explore the hows and wherefores of this park’s various ecosystems and the intriguing hues of the lakes, I’d be rather hard-pressed to look at it as simply a science experiment. In a way, I wouldn’t mind becoming a biologist, botanist, geologist, etc just to get a deeper look (and an extended stay) of the area.

And those of us with at least semi-analytical minds tend to become amateurs in these fields when it comes to places like this. Deborah and I were talking over why the lakes are so blue / green, and based on the reddish soil in the area, and we’re guessing there’s plenty of copper in the earth. In fact, the higher you go in the area, the redder the soil becomes, and JNP is at a decently high altitude.

Whatever the cause, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and we took our time oohing and aahing over interesting vistas as we walked along the path.

We passed by many smaller waterfalls and came to a split in the path. The way to the left went down, which said something about Reed Lake, and the way to the right went up, which mentioned something about Double Dragon Lake, Tiger Lake, Pearl Shoal, and lots of other fun sounding names. We noticed everyone was headed towards the Double Dragon Lake et. al. and hardly anyone was headed towards Reed Lake, so we made our choice.

Robert Frost would’ve been very proud of us. We escaped the crowd and walked the path to Reed Lake, and the choice to avoid the crowd was very rewarding. For having such a simple-sounding name, the lake was gorgeous, and there was hardly a soul along the path around it.

We supposed that the reason the place was practically deserted was because of its name; admit it, “Reed Lake” doesn’t sound very interesting, especially in comparison to places that have names like “Double Dragon.” It actually sounds downright boring, maybe even a little overwhelmed or polluted with reeds.

Far from it:















Do you see how absolutely clear the water is?

These are just a few pictures in my collection, by the way. You’ll see many more later.

Anyway, after Reed Lake, we decided to turn around and see if Double Dragon Lake et. al. lived up to their fancy names. Some of them did, some of them didn’t. Some places we couldn’t quite understand what was so notable about them: “Why are those people taking pictures next to a swamp?”… especially when there are beautiful waterfalls and lakes that are a lot more attractive.

We tried to do most of our touring in the less crowded places. The Chinese tour differently than Americans do. In scenic spots in the US, in the west at least, some parks can have many people without having a crowded atmosphere because Americans don’t necessarily travel huge packs; they may travel by families or by caravans of friends, but it’s not as if there are swarms of Americans that zero in on certain spots. This might be because Americans really like space and that generally they love to discover new and rare things so they don’t follow crowds so much.

The Chinese on the other hand don’t have pioneering in their DNA at all. I believe I’ve said something like this before, in my entry about Mt Qingcheng when some of our hosts tried to stop me from going down a path a little bit just to take only ONE picture. This lack of an exploration gene is evident in the way they tour places… in packs!

Seriously, if they see one or two people staring at something, they’ll come and gather around those two people to see what they’re staring at. Deborah and I almost utilized (abused, really) this idea when we realized a lot of heads were blocking our view of the vistas and we were sorely tempted to create a diversion by doing the staring thing, but we behaved ourselves.

The day was absolutely awesome, and our time at JNP ended with the most fantastic view of the entire park. The ride up there was pretty interesting too, as two little kids who found me fascinating were arguing over who was going to say “hello” to me first.

“You say it first!” the little girl said.

“No, you say it first!” insisted the boy.

This spiel repeated about three or four times, ending each time with the little girl turning to me with her mouth open prepared to say “hello” when she’d suddenly become very shy and whip back around to face the little boy.

“Fine! You say ‘hi’ and I say ‘lo’!”

I thought about making the situation easier for them by saying hello first, in Chinese, but I suppose I didn’t want to surprise them like that. These kids were already very nervous.

At one point, the little girl’s mother sat down beside her and spoke with her for a minute. The mother then turned to me and said in very good English, “Hello, my daughter would like to say something to you.”

She nudged her daughter and the little girl turned to me and made it as far as “Ha…” before she got shy again. She succeeded the second time, and was very cute as she replied sweetly in English, “I’m fine, thank you!” after I asked after her well-being.

We stopped off at another vista and looked around as the two kids, who obviously were less fearful of talking to me now that they knew I don’t eat small children, kept shouting “HELLO!” to me as they ran around.

We waited a few minutes, then hopped onto another bus, which took us to another vista.

I honestly thought we were just transferring buses until we came to a sign referring to another lake. We had time to kill, so why not?

Whoever built the walkway leading to the lake was a genius, though I doubt it was on purpose. We couldn’t see the lake because of all the trees, and when the walkway turned abruptly to the right, I was suddenly devoid of my faculty of speech.

I was looking down upon this:











It was called the Five Color Lake. Basically, the Chinese name anything that is supremely colorful as Five Color Something, but for once this was an absolute understatement, and there is no need to describe exactly how beautiful it is.

The one thing I can say is that it seemed to be lethally beautiful, as nothing was living in it, and I only saw one bird fly PAST it. Except for the trees around it, the lake held no life, at least none that could be seen without a microscope.

Regardless, we were still in awe, as were the other people who stumbled upon it the same way we did. We knew when someone new came upon the scene as we heard shouts of various derivatives of “WOW!!!” coming from above our heads.

At that point, we started heading back to the entrance of the park. We were very content with the order of events of that day, with that gorgeous lake ending our JNP experience. Such an amazing way to end the adventure.

We had had eight hours to look around JNP. I’m so glad it wasn’t two hours or the like, as we wouldn’t have been able to see as much as we did. If you come to Sichuan, make it a point to visit JNP. Especially if you love places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Crater Lake… Just don’t take the Chinese tour.

Here’s one reason why: the lodging. There’s now a Sheraton Hotel outside JNP. I don’t know the exact quality of it, but I’m sure it’s better than the hotel room we stayed at after visiting JNP.

It was pretty late when we got to the hotel, but the rest of the group was ready and willing to eat dinner. I had absolutely NO appetite for more of the same food I had earlier, so I stayed in the room to munch and take a shower. You know, I wish I HAD stayed at the Sheraton, because again there was a hot water curfew, again there was no heater in the room, and again I was the one who slept by a window that wasn’t sealed properly.

Believe me, at this point, all that was going on in my head was: “It’s just one night here, maybe the next one will be better. You only have two more nights to go and then you’ll be in your own bed, comfy, clean, and warm.” Besides, I had Huanglong to look forward to.

But still… That’s STRIKE TWO for Chinese tour groups.



Couldn't resist adding one more picture from my collection:






Now let me see a show of hands of who wants to come to China!!!
meiren

JZG: The Big Taboo

(Entry is backdated)


At 5:30AM today my Chinese national holiday officially started. This holiday is basically their Fourth of July, except the country takes the entire week off to celebrate. Though I’m glad they have a government and not existing as an anarchist state after years of warlord kingdoms, civil wars, Japanese invasion and oppression, and then more civil wars, I’m just taking advantage of this week off as free time in which I can finally do some traveling.

At a hot pot mini-banquet our landlords threw for us, our landlords got wind of our wish to visit this gorgeous place called Jiuzhaigou. As I’ve said before, China is run on connections, so our landlords were able to set something up with an affiliate of theirs who has some influence in a travel agency. Unfortunately Sunny couldn’t go because of bank complications (do not take Wells Fargo with you when you travel overseas) and decided to visit some places closer to home instead, but my friend Deborah was able to come, and she came for the same reasons I wanted to go: 1. To enjoy the beauty of the area; 2. To go somewhere, do something during our week-long break; and 3. To make friends and family back home insanely jealous.

A van picked Deborah and me up at the university’s North Gate, and the crazy driver (I suppose by now I can drop the “crazy” when I refer to Chinese drivers… You’d be correct in mentally adding “crazy” to “driver” each time I talk about one) sped around picking up other people to drop off at the already nearly full tour bus.

It was a very Chinese tour. Meaning, I was the only person on board that bus whose ancestors (most of them, anyway) came from Europe (Deborah’s parents were from Taiwan). I’d like it to be known that being among people of different races doesn’t bother me, and of course I don’t mind being the oddball of a group since I usually am anyway, but in this case it was a bit more obvious who the oddball was. The Chinese on board that bus thought so too. All eyes were on me as we boarded the bus and we found a place to sit down.

At some point the tour guide made his way to the back of the bus to talk with us, or rather, talk to Deborah, and there was some discussion about us being from America. He turned to me to test my Chinese by greeting me with “你 好! Ni hao!”

I responded back with the same, which totally surprised him, and one of the people behind us said, in Chinese of course, “She said that pretty well!”

The Chinese usually make certain assumptions about Westerners, probably particularly about Americans, such as not having any idea how to use chopsticks, or lacking in common sense. As evidenced by the reaction of our tour guide when I greeted him in Chinese, many Chinese think most Westerners wouldn’t speak Chinese. Some even seem to think that Westerners may be incapable of LEARNING Chinese, as in learning how to say the tones. So, because of this, even saying two little words correctly like “Ni hao!” can impress some Chinese people, and often they use that to base their judgment of your Chinese language skills.

Some Chinese might also think that you speak Chinese fluently if you’re able to correctly say a couple of words such as “Ni hao!” (hello) or “xiexie” (thank you) or “zaijian” (see you later). Matt used this idea to really freak out a couple of Chinese girls on a bus one time as they were obviously gossiping about a friend who had gotten off on one of the stops. As Matt was getting off, the two girls looked at him, he looked at them, and then he said, “Zaijian!” That horrified them as they earlier assumed he couldn’t understand what they were saying (which was the truth) and so felt free to gossip in front of him, but from hearing him say two little syllables in Chinese, they assumed he had understood their entire conversation. Hmm, must’ve been pretty malicious gossip.

Anyway, the bus took off, and it wasn’t long until the tour guide started gabbing on the microphone and eventually sang a couple of songs. All I wanted to do was take a nap since I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, so I really wanted him to shut up. I wondered if the entire ride, all 11 hours or so, was going to be like this. Thank God it wasn’t, or I would’ve been tempted to make him eat that microphone…

We stopped to have lunch at this restaurant that was attached to a hotel. I use the term “restaurant” loosely, as it seemed more like a cafeteria. The food wasn’t too bad, just heavy. I was still the only “white” person in that large eating hall, so I was attracting a lot of attention that I was almost successfully ignoring. Once we started eating though, Deborah started laughing a little and mentioned something about people watching me, which I told her I was trying not to notice.

Besides my coloring, some of the people in the room might have been staring at me because of the way I was eating. It might have been the fact that I, a westerner, was able to use my chopsticks successfully. Or, it might have been the fact that I eat with my chopsticks in my LEFT HAND – everyone, whether they’re naturally left-handed or not, is taught to use their right hand in eating or writing. I cannot help but think sometimes that I must be almost the complete opposite of the typical Chinese person…

We got back on the road and again stopped off, this time at a road-side attraction where you could, for a fee, ride a camel or a yak. Deborah rode a camel, but I decided that I’d rather not ride a strange animal right next to a busy road with (crazy) drivers, so I just took pictures.

A couple hours later, we arrived at the hotel, which was not very impressive. It had no heater, though the place was up in the mountains and so would get quite cold. What is amazing is that the room had a tv, but not a heater.

The bathroom wasn’t very clean – the toilet had remnants of previous “flushings” – and hot showers could only be taken between the hours of 9 and 10 at night. Fool that I was, I actually took a shower and had to go to bed with mostly wet hair because I didn’t bother bringing a hair dryer with me.

About an hour or two after we got to the hotel, a group of us went to a Tibetan dance performance. Deborah and I both wanted to go because we wanted to experience Tibetan culture, but that was not the impression we left the place with.

Each guest was given a white scarf, which was draped over the shoulders by the greeters at the door, kind of like the Hawaiians giving leis to their guests. After being pointed in the right direction by a greeter who had looked at the seat number on my ticket, I was personally escorted by one of the dancers.

I had mixed feelings about that last part, wondering if the personal attention was a universal courtesy employed with all guests, or if my escort after seeing that I’m obviously not from anywhere near China thought I wouldn’t be able to find my way to my seat though the number was given in Arabic numerals.

It’s not that I meant to be irritated or to think cynically about this dancer’s service, and I did make myself relax and to my relief the dancers were helping many of their guests find their seats, but I’ve noticed that many Chinese act or speak according to their opinions; if they think you don’t know how to do something because you are a foreigner, they would go to the trouble of doing it for you, which can sometimes get ridiculous. It can be on one hand very sweet because they’re trying to take care of you and help you, but on the other hand sometimes it’s easy for the thought to pop into your head that they have the idea that you have absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Some of the Chinese try to be extremely helpful, almost to the point of doing themselves harm. For instance, two stewardesses on the Chinese airline I was traveling on for the last leg of my journey to Chengdu saw me board the plane, took my ticket from me and personally guided me to my seat. Again, the ticket was given in Arabic numerals, with the addition of Latin letters. I didn’t see any flight attendant helping any of the Chinese passengers to their seats, so I figured it was because I was a westerner. It was rather charming, but I wondered if there was some other passenger on the flight who actually needed their service and wasn’t receiving it because I had TWO flight attendants helping me out while I was completely capable of finding my seat.

That wasn’t all the flight attendants did either. I had two carry-ons, which were heavy with the things I didn’t want stolen from the baggage I had checked in (namely a laptop, other electronic stuff, and books), so I reluctantly handed one of my carry-ons to one of the stewardesses when she asked for it. Instantaneously the other one had to help her as she almost dropped to the ground under the weight of my bag. They refused my help, either out of trying to make an effort to make a good impression of China to a foreigner or to save face (saving face is very important in China), when I was trying to communicate to them that I probably ought to put my bag up in the compartment myself.

These two very slight Chinese women struggled and strained for minutes to put my bag in the compartment. I don’t remember now, but I think I decided at this point to jump in and just simply shoved the bag into the compartment with one hand, and the deed was done. The other bag was lighter, but I think I actually put it into the compartment myself.

When the flight was over, one of the same stewardesses came to actually TAKE DOWN my carry-ons, and again she nearly collapsed to the floor. It was half charming, half frustrating as she went through this process of trying to lift a bag she knew she couldn’t carry. She gave me this really helpless look, with kind of a mix of “What in the world do you have in here?!?” and “How can you, a girl, be so strong?” If I had known enough Chinese, I would have told her that I was about to carry those two heavy bags through the fourth airport of my journey. I knew and respected their efforts to be hospitable, but the only thing I could really do was thank them, which I felt was wussy in comparison to the trouble they went to.

I have more examples, but I’ll leave it at that. Like I said, the service is very charming, and I’ve appreciated everyone’s help which has been above and beyond just common courtesy, but at some point you just want to cry “STOP, PLEASE!!!” before they either hurt themselves or go to the extreme to help you out in rather trivial matters when you’re sure they probably have something more important (and much safer in certain cases) they need to do.

And yet there are some Chinese who really think you don’t know what you’re doing.

So, these observations were the cause of my irritation, though I was surprised at my sensitivity as I was personally shown to my seat at the Tibetan dance hall.

We had pretty good seats – the front row. Some of the dancers kept strutting (and I really do mean strutting – peacock style) across the stage floor. And it really was a stage. As the offspring of someone in the Biz, I looked around and noticed they had some really decent lighting rigs. I looked at the colors of the lights that were already on during the “pre-show strutting” and it seems someone has a background in lighting because they used the apricot gels instead of white or yellow that would really distort skin color.

This should have been an indication of exactly what kind of show we were about to see.

When the show started, my ears were assaulted by very loud music that did not sound very traditional in its use of synthesizers, though I heard some other instruments that sounded traditional. Lights were flashing everywhere, and then the dancers began to dance.

The dances were pretty interesting, but because of the other details of the show, I was wondering about the authenticity of these dances.

Many of the dancers were wearing stage makeup, though on a few people it was overdone, which means they probably did their own makeup. That’s fine, just some of them could probably use some instruction in the application of stage makeup.

I was enjoying the show until they began to sing Chinese karaoke music. No dancing, just some dude standing in the middle of the stage singing to the crowd. I’ve heard snippets of Tibetan singing, and I know that it’s considerably closer to what I’ve heard at powwows than it is to Chinese karaoke music. The Chinese in the room were having a grand time because of these songs, which were of course put into the program to cater to their tastes as Chinese tourists.

Unfortunately I do not like Chinese karaoke music. I would not have been disappointed at all if the sound system broke; I was actually disappointed that it didn’t. There were a couple of other songs like that, and my usual diversion during those dumb songs was to play with my camera.

At some point the audience was invited onto the stage to dance with the dancers. I really do not like tourist “culture” activities, because they seem so… yeah, staged. Most of the Han Chinese just were not taking the dancing seriously, as in they didn’t bother to figure out how to actually perform the dance. The Tibetan dancers just smiled as the crowd did their thing, but I’m in agreement with something Deborah said later about wondering what they really think about their culture being twisted for the pleasure of tourists.

Later on as we went through town, I noticed the pictures posted on buildings advertising the dancing troupe, and they reminded me so much of Las Vegas shows. It was an interesting performance to watch, but personally I would’ve preferred just being the silent witness to an actual traditional performance of these dances.

I was informed that we will actually see Jiuzhaigou tomorrow, after a two hour bus ride, though there were hotels in that area. Being accustomed to going directly to the places I want to see, my mind shouted “Why?!?” because the time spent there seemed like pretty much a waste.

Strike one against tour groups.